Gazette opinion: Let’s find homes for needy Montana veterans

Billings Gazette – A year ago, as part of a one-day national survey, local volunteers interviewed 604 people in Billings who didn’t have a home, including 111 who said they had served in the U.S. military. They were accompanied by 53 family members who also had served. That was 164 homeless veterans — or veterans at risk for becoming homeless — counted in a single day of January 2011.

Statewide, that same survey identified 612 homeless veterans, including 86 with homeless families.

One indication that the Montana population of homeless veterans has unmet needs is the fact that all services for them have quickly filled despite significant expansions.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Montana is starting the third year of a five-year plan to end homelessness among the state’s military veterans.

In the past three years, the number of subsidized housing vouchers for homeless veterans in Montana has increased from 35 to 145. The 50 vouchers added in 2011 were quickly used to get 50 veterans into their own apartments with continuing VA case management to ensure that they have needed assistance to stay in their new homes, said Tony Snell, who coordinates services to homeless veterans statewide from Fort Harrison near Helena.

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